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Iowa law enforcement reflect on Obama visit

Duane Nollen, The Oskaloosa Herald, Iowa –

OSKALOOSA — Both Oskaloosa Police Chief John “Jake” McGee and Mahaska County Sheriff Paul DeGeest agree that President Barack Obama’s visit to Oskaloosa Tuesday was an awesome experience personally and professionally.

The U.S. Secret service worked closely with their departments to provide security for the president’s campaign stop at Nelson Pioneer Farm Tuesday.

“It was a great experience,” McGee said. “Our staff truly enjoyed working with them.”

“It was a really neat thing for us,” DeGeest said. “We’ve had a lot of candidates in the past, but not the president. Working with the Secret Service was not a problem at all. It was quite enjoyable.”

DeGeest said the Secret Service was “100 percent up front with us” and worked in a partnership. “Secrecy is a big deal” and the Secret Service did not want any leaks of information to the public or the press about the event.

“It went off without a hitch,” DeGeest said of the president’s visit.

Working with the Secret Service for President Obama’s security went smoothly because local law enforcement officers recently worked with the Secret Service when Rwandan President Paul Kagame spoke at William Penn University’s graduation ceremony.

“It was an interesting work experience — working with our Secret Service and the Rwandan service,” McGee said of Kagame’s visit.

One experience from Kagame’s visit that local law enforcement did not have to deal with during Obama’s visit was dealing with protesters.

“That was a unique experience for us,” McGee said. “We worked with them and it went extremely well.”

McGee said his department worked with personnel from the Des Moines Secret Service office for the Kagame visit and some came down to help the presidential detail too.

There were several law enforcement agencies working during President Obama’s visit. Besides the Oskaloosa Police Department and the Mahaska County Sheriff’s Office, the Sheriff’s Posse, the Iowa State Patrol and the Department of Criminal Investigation were on hand for security.

McGee said the Oskaloosa Police Department’s main responsibility was blocking every intersection and driveway along the presidential motorcade’s route through Oskaloosa. The motorcade traveled down A Avenue to North Market Street and up North Market to Glendale Road. That’s about 38 intersections to close off while the motorcade traveled down the street.

McGee said his department could not have accomplished the mission without the assistance of city, county and state personnel and other volunteers.

Both officials said their department received “kudos” from the Secret Service and the Iowa State Patrol for their efforts.

The president’s visit also was an exciting event for both law officers on a personal level.

“Jake and I met the president and we had a photo shoot,” DeGeest said.

McGee said he shook the president’s hand and had a brief conversation with him.

“It was a great experience,” McGee said.

In the wake of the president’s visit, McGee has some paperwork to do dealing with overtime.

“This presidential visit cost us less than when President Kagame was here,” McGee said. “Paul Kagame was here for an extended period of time.”

DeGeest said he had one deputy who worked six or seven hours of overtime. Also, the Secret Service wanted a deputy to work overnight at Nelson Pioneer Farm, and they paid the overtime, he added.

“It was a little extra work, but nothing out of the ordinary,” DeGeest said.

“It was a learning experience and a really neat experience,” DeGeest said.

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